Recent events show that no matter where you live, it’s important to be prepared.
Natural disasters can put undue stress on a medical practice. Whether it's wildfires, earthquakes, flooding or even a broken water pipe, the more physicians can prepare for a business disruption event, the better off the practice will be in the long run.
Here are seven tips to help prepare for the unknown:
A natural disaster, especially if it happens after hours, may leave you cut off from staff and patients. Make sure you have a plan for how you will communicate with your staff and that everyone knows their role. Also, have a backup plan in case cell service is not available. For instance, some communication apps work over Wi-Fi and don’t require cell towers.
Some patients may have an urgent need for care or prescription refills during a disaster when communication is difficult. Make sure you or a staffer has the contact information – preferably multiple forms – for the most in-need patients so you can coach them on what to do and proactively reach out to take care of them.
In the case of a disaster, you might be cut off from various resources at your practice. However, remember that cell phones are miniature computers and with an internet connection, you can often access a lot of the vital information you need. Just make sure you have mobile access to your most vital software, such as the EHR. Having reciprocal agreements with physicians in other communities to care for each other’s patients in the event of a disaster can work, assuming transportation is possible. If so, rideshare apps can help get your most vulnerable patients to a physician.
Hospitals will most likely have some sort of disaster plan of their own. Contact them to see if there is a way to coordinate efforts in the event of a large-scale event.
Think through what it would take to keep your practice functioning in case of disaster and write up a plan and assign responsibilities to staffers. Focus on the what-ifs: What if the building burned down or was destroyed due to weather? What if the practice flooded? What if there was no power for two weeks? What if you lost access to the internet for an extended period? Once created, the plan should be shared and practiced to identify oversights and to make sure everyone knows his or her role.
Access to patient records can be a vital function, so talk to your vendor to find out what it will take to restore access on a new computer system or what backups they have if access is lost or files get corrupted. Also, don’t assume that just because a system is cloud-based that it’s infallible. If you have to use paper for an extended period, decide what will be recorded and entered back in the system once it is restored.